For the first 4 weeks we spent in Harare, we settled into a routine and reported to an office every day, providing structure to our day that both of us appreciated. I was able to look for jobs and for the few postings I found, I spent hours upon hours working on cover letters and even enjoyed the fact that I was sitting at a desk (back in South Africa I was relegated to the couch)! I was also pretty efficient with the wedding planning stuff and was able to check off a few things from the to-do list and make some much needed headway.
We managed to engage in a few social outings – we even went to a party the first weekend we were here. Thanks to friends of friends, we’ve managed to find some nice places to eat, shop and have some adult beverages. I’ve tried to get a feel from everyone, from NGO foreign nationals to local Zimbabweans, about what it’s like live here. Some NGO folk don’t quite get why they are here – a lot of them are used to working in extreme emergency situations and they've been told there is some sort of emergency situation going on here but nothing like Sudan, Ethiopia or Honduras. The actual emergencies are hard to identify – last year there was the Cholera outbreak which affected over 98,000 people and killed almost 4,300 (WHO report) but the rainy season passed, people recovered and now the NGO’s are here to try to prevent the same thing from happening this year. Clearly there is a government crisis going on and the progress that was thought to be made in January with Mugabe and the ZANU-PF agreeing to work with the MDC has all but sputtered out and some seem to worry that it was all just show. So the question still remains: what exactly is the emergency?
Jason and I did a little bit of sightseeing and drove north on one of the main arteries out of town and found hiking at Domboshawa. It was a little awkward because the park seems to be right in the middle of a village setting and you have to hike around people’s houses to get up into the rocks/hilly area. I don’t know what came first – the park or the people. Due to the farm seizures of white Zimbabweans, the black population has moved onto the land and slowly settlements have sprawled out, encroaching on the once beautiful bush land. Maybe this area is a result of that but I don't know. We managed to find our way up a rock face and had a nice picnic lunch overlooking the valley below.
Our living situation is not ideal but we’re making it work. The hardest part is the shared space and cooking situation. The pans are thin and not quite up to par and cooking anything without some sort of a disaster rarely happens. We use a gas burner and one night we left water to boil and after an hour not even one rolling bubble appeared. How does water NOT boil? Usually at least once a week one of us will flip out and storm out of the kitchen, but it’s a trade off and the other one is always there to calm the situation and rescue the meal. One night we took refuge at our friends Liz and John’s house where we completely took over their kitchen to make a delicious Tex Mex taco dinner, complete with refried beans (bought in South Africa), Spanish rice and guacamole. I even learned how to improvise and make sour cream out of yogurt and lemon juice – handy trick to know! We had a great time and next time we promised to have tequila and margaritas so we could enjoy the full Tex Mex experience!
Harare is a pretty city that has a lot of potential. It’s run down, all the street signs are ancient and rusting, stop lights barely work (today we ran across a light that had both the red and green lights going at the same time, very confusing), if at all, the municipal water system doesn’t work (the reason for why we don't have running water), there are electricity outages a couple times a week but still, after almost ten years, people seem hopeful. It’s strange that I live in this city along with the seats of government that are causing this country so much pain and agony – how can there be any harmony directly surrounding people who have a total and complete disregard for their fellow human beings? I pass one of Mugabe’s homes and The State House barricaded with brick walls topped with razor wire and militia men armed with rifles and serious scowling faces. The streets on either side of these complexes seem inviting, lined with gorgeous jacarandas and flamboyan trees (neither indigenous but a big part of what makes this city beautiful), but cameras are forbidden and the roads close to all traffic including pedestrians and bicyclists from 6pm to 6am, something Mugabe himself implemented after taking power in 1980.
Despite all the problems, we're enchanted by this place. Maybe it’s the geographical change, maybe it’s the thrill of exploring a new place, maybe we just want to be settled somewhere and not live out of a suitcase, whatever it is, we want to make this our new home. We'll see how things unfold, with his job, my applications and of course, the government situation.